Duty, devotion, dignity, determina- tion, compassion, service, sacrifice. These words come to mind on this day that will live in infamy.
Unlikely as it seems, there are Americans who don't know the significance of Dec. 7. If they've heard of Pearl Harbor Day, it is only because they've seen the movies. They do not know that on Dec. 7, 1941, Japan launched 353 airplanes from six aircraft carriers bolstered by 45 ships and submarines in an effort to destroy America's Pacific Fleet. They don't realize that many people around them lost great-uncles, grandfathers and distant cousins that day.
If they think of Japan, it is as a trusted business partner. But in 1941, Japan's brutal military had conquered China and French Indochina. It had forged alliances with Germany and Italy, whose troops had overrun Europe and Africa.
Nervous but officially neutral, America slept half a world away.
The sight of Japanese fighters over Oahu that Sunday morning was met with disbelief. The devastation that followed forever ended our slumber.
Recall the words above:
Duty. Thousands of sailors and airmen went to their battle stations as the air around them filled with screeching bullets, thunderous explosions, smoke and flames.
Devotion. With bombs falling and torpedoes tearing through the water, survivors went to the aid of fallen comrades. They listened for S-O-S in Morse code and on the USS Oklahoma -- upside down in the harbor -- they found 32 sailors. Others were not so lucky, entombed while still living.
Dignity. With nearby ships aflame, the USS Nevada made a run for it -- her tattered flag flying above the bridge. Nearby sailors glimpsed it through the smoke and started singing the Star Spangled Banner in their hearts. When her captain realized the Nevada could be sunk at the harbor entrance, trapping other ships, he ran her aground.
Determination. With hundreds of enemy planes overhead, many airmen dashed to their fighters, desperate to face the enemy in the air. Most died in their cockpits or on the tarmac. They were avenged. All 11 Japanese aircraft carriers, cruisers and battleships involved in the attack were sunk before war's end.
Compassion. The nurses who cared for the more than 1,900 wounded sailors and airmen had few medical supplies. But they had morphine to dull the pain, and, according to official accounts, they marked the foreheads of those given it with red lipstick M's.
Service. In the face of devastation, America did not shirk. We went to work, helping the wounded, burying the dead, volunteering for duty and repairing the ships. Of the eight damaged or sunken ships, five returned to battle.
Sacrifice. Roughly 2,400 paid the ultimate price; 1,177 on the Arizona alone when the ship's magazine exploded, lifting the ship 15 feet.
This happened 71 years ago today. We do not hold a grudge. Japan is a stalwart ally and trusted friend. But we must never forget the Americans who made the greatest sacrifice. Every American should honor their dignity, determination, service and devotion.